Childhood’s End?


It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.

                                                                                                               Arthur C. Clarke, 1951

It has been a year since what has come to be known as the ‘Arab Spring’ came into being. In this period it has rolled through much of the Arab world, scalped four long standing state heads and led to protests and uprisings all over. A plethora of analysis to explain “Why there? Who is behind? What now?” has kept pace.

Explanations have ranged from Facebook, Twitter instigated unrest to rupturing of socio-economic systems dominated by authoritarian regimes. From crony capitalism to delayed maturing of civil society. From exposure to western thoughts to the rising aspiration of an increasingly literate and assertive youth.

The other day I was chatting with Abdul Rashid, an Arab holding a secure and well paying job. And he offered an interesting perspective. He spoke of a father dominated family structure. Of how the father loves his child and takes care of all his basic needs. But in return, he expects unquestioning obedience. Of how, as the child grows up and tries to follow his passion, he gets restrained in case he does not follow traditions. Abdul posed a question, “What solution would you suggest in case the child has to contend with such restraint for the rest of his life?”

The above set me thinking. If the child is being loved and taken care of, why does he feel restrained? And what factors are feeding his perception of restraint? My thoughts veered to the opening sequence of the Arthur Clarke penned Childhood’s End inspired movie, “2001: A Space odyssey”. Of how a futuristic monolith and its flickering images guide a tribe of prehistoric ape men to become discontented with their existing situation and aspire for a better tomorrow. A fascinating story of the origins of Man…. and his discontentment.

And as I ponder about the Arab spring, what do I see? An equation of the Ruler and the Ruled spanning decades which worked till now. A relationship which dictated that the Ruler “father figure” would love and take care of his “Ruled children” through huge welfare systems and sops. In return the latter would keep their side of the bargain by not demanding for uncomfortable freedoms like self expression and self governance. Unfortunately the equation and the relationship it harboured seem to be breaking down.

So what really happened? I believe Globalisation has turned into today’s monolith to show and reinforce images of “What could be” to one and all on this planet. Folks whose lower levers of motivation viz, food, shelter and money needs have already been taken care of, can now see tantalising visions of self actualisation and self esteem. And so we have Abdul above, with a secure job and lifestyle, hankering to follow his “passion” of self determination and self expression.

Could this be the moment when the Arab spring child grows out of childhood to reclaim his destiny? As he seeks more ownership in Governance and policy making? As he joins the global mainstream and political consciousness?

In Learning…….                                                                             Shakti Ghosal

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19 thoughts on “Childhood’s End?

  1. Pingback: The Turn of the Screw | ESGEE musings

  2. I would like to add my humble two cents by addressing this question you posed, ‘If the child is being loved and taken care of, why does he feel restrained?’ It seems intrinsically linked to the thought behind this post.

    The child feels restrained because he is always being told what he can do and what he cannot do. The child has no free will. No choice. No say. The child is a non-entity, so to say; someone simply to be taken care of. This is not love and has no scope for a healthy growth of this equation. How can anyone expect this kind of an equation to keep working for both parties? It is bound to fail. It’s only a matter of time. If you substitute ‘child’ with people (‘praja’) and ‘parents’ with governments, it doesn’t remain as simplistic an equation, I agree. But in essence, it is the same. It’s a rebellion waiting to happen. And I don’t believe it’s because of globalisation or the information age. The underlying currents of unrest will always be there in any unbalanced equation. The manner in which it comes out is what changes with time. We underestimate the inner voice, even in a child.

    • This truly is a beautiful critique. You are so right when you say that we underestimate the inner voice of the child. I would hasten to add that beyond that voice we are undermining the child’s destiny and by that, undermining our own future.

      Cheers

      Shakti

  3. Adding my tuppence: It is surprising to observe how grown ups, apart from discarding the restraints, customs and traditions of their parents also go the extra mile to renounce their given names. Don’t believe me? Just see the screen names (or virtual alias) that people give themselves while leaving their electronic views in the cyber-world.
    It has nothing to do with rising aspiration of an increasingly literate and assertive young generation. Rather, it is as much a human falling as it is to be mutinous.

    We progress through strife. It is in our genes.

    Best,
    Saibal Bose

    • Thank you Saibal for your astute comments.What would you ascribe the need to use screen names to? Would it be that such folks feel diffident to provide frank opinions while using their real names? And if this be so, why the diffidence? Because they would like to live two lives, like Neo in Matrix?? And why do we perceive being mutinous to be a failing?

      The point I am trying to make is that we need to avoid the trap of confusing symptoms with causes. Only then can we effectively drill down and determine constructive ways of moving forward.

      Cheers

      Shakti

  4. The rather what may seem a simplistic observation by Abdul Rashid may be the greater truth at a macro level.
    The Father thinks he loves, and the children? “Love as a harness” to quote souldipper.

    Living in a democratic, secular and united country which guarantees my Individual rights, I am in deadly fear of all…the politicians, the authorities, the priests the moral police, the do gooders, the mob…these censors of everything that is truth. Anything can get the witch burners at my doorstep…even a mundane, mediocre and unworthy painting (read Hussain ).
    What democracy, what dictatorship, what capitalism/communism/all isms and what free society. Do we know of any…is it possible.

    But the gem from Arthur C Clarke ” It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars.”…or can we say any form of Nationalism…
    Shakti, can I say I share your optimism of the tomorrow or say a foresight of a golden dawn…

    • Thank you Ramani for your so very uninhibited thoughts. Much that you have said deserves deep introspection.Specially since it comes from your own personal experience….

      You question, “Do we know of any…..is it possible?” I wish there were more straight-forward answers to this.

      Why I hold an intrinsic optimism is because I believe to succeeed, we need to be part of the solution.

      Cheers

      Shakti

  5. Shakti, in my humble opinion, your well written piece appears to be a simplistic explanation of recent societal and political upheaval in some Asian and African countries. Maybe gender inequalities too have had a role, although it would be difficult to ascribe the radical changes to one single factor. Food for more thought ?

    • Thanks Vatash for coming here and offering your comment. I agrre that in life nothing ever gets solved by simplistic unidirectional formula. But I guess one needs to be able to prioritise issues and then tackle the most important one.

      Cheers

      Shakti

  6. No fancy words to try and impress the brilliant minds who write, read and comment here, just heartfelt words of common origin. In watching the traditions of other countries around the world it appears that many are strangled by ego and forcing their young to live only in certain ways that are approved by the parents. In doing this one smoothers the spirit of the child and robs them of living a life they choose to live in their hearts. They shut their hearts down to avoid the pain and in doing so lose their ability to feel love and compassion. When one is repressed there will always be a time somewhere in the future when what is locked within must erupt to get air. The unrest is created by ones own inability to stifle their egos and flow gently through life in whatever direction it chooses to take them. Blessings Shakti…..VK

    • VK,

      You are so right. It all goes down to stifling of egos, self determination and self expression. And when this occurs across a particular society which is otherwise networked and exposed to the rest of the world, we are indeed sitting on a time bomb.

      Thank you for your beautiful comments, VK.

      Shakti

  7. Shakti, I would like to declare this as my opinion. As we live in different parts of the world, our experiences place different perspectives. However, I hold to the power and strength of putting Love into practice. The Master Teachers who have come into my awareness have taught/do teach freedom – how to live with and contribute to loving kindness and goodness. Suppression or repression pushes against our natural desire to evolve. Restraint builds pressures that eventually blow.

    Fortunately, some societies have unleashed with Love as their harness. We’ve also had several teachers of this nature on our planet. Life has not been easy for them because their approach places fear in the hearts of restrainers and controllers. The motivator is called many things, but the root motivator is fear.

    We have a choice whether to live in Love or Fear. When we are restrained, the choice becomes clouded with resistance, resentment, frustration and more fear.

    Exposure and globalization reminds people of having choice. It presents clarity for both productive and destructive ways of approaching governance. All of us need to be strong, patient and loving as people slowly remove chaos and anarchistic approaches to living after a period of restraint or dictatorship. A dictatorship usually does not leave room for growth, strengthening and authentic expression of natural Love. A dictatorship usually does not groom successors well. Instead it creates a nation of angry, unwilling and unwanted dependency.

    As I say, this is my perspective borne of observations throughout my life. I have only known freedom. Perhaps that is why I feel I have the right to expect my planet to operate in a spirit of Love and Unity.

    • Hi Souldipper,

      The perspective you have provided is so holistic that I believe, nothing more needs to be said! Thank you for this.

      However having lived in an extremely well governed and socially benign ” dictatorship ” for quite a few years, I see a very interesting phenomenon. Of a very disparate level of societal development on two parameters. The first parameter ( X axis) is to do with aspirations of the people more than the aspect of “fear”. And I guess the aspirational aspect is increasingly yearning for self determination. On this clearly the society has moved quite a distance. The second parameter ( Y axis) is to do with the evolution of one’s obligation towards work and society. This is where the development has been starkly stunted with most people expecting the Government to take care of all their basic needs without any self responsibility from their side. I suspect this is what is creating the strain and the visible consequences.

      Cheers

      • Thank you for taking the time to explain, Shakti. I appreciate your insights because I realize that I do not know the intricacies of living in other nations. You’ve kindly laid out facts with a clarity that can only be gained through living in the environment and culture.

        This has given me some good “thinking” material. 🙂

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